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Fracture: Ground Breaking Shooter

Company: Lucas Arts

Since the start of shooters, there has been one pretty solid constant, the ground didn't change, at least not much. Sure some games might give you destructible walkways or bridges, or set, specific areas that were altered in set and specific manners, but with enough practice and time, you could learn pretty much everything there was to learn about a given map (whether it is in a single player campaign or multiplayer match). Well, the guys at Day 1 Studios apparently decided that that was too boring, and have given players the ability to transform pretty much any open ground in new and fun ways.

Think about this: you are playing a standard Capture the Flag game. You've played this level so many times that you know the best places to wait for someone to take your flag, or maybe you know of some secret way into the opponents' base. Terrain Deformation completely changes those scenarios. With TD, a great way to keep people out of your base is simply to raise the ground at the openings. When someone wants in, they'll have to work to lower that land, and you'll be ready for them. The same goes when you are trying to infiltrate an enemy base, that supposedly secret route could be blocked off and it will take quite a bit of work to get through. Throw in the ability to make your own cover, suck enemies into massive vortices of damage or send a torpedo under the ground to pass up buildings and others above-ground obstacles, what you've got is amazing.

These are just a couple of the things I got to see recently when I got some hands-on time with Fracture. Along with the multiplayer campaign, the game also features a pretty in depth single player campaign that will not only give you access to the Entrencher (your best friend and the item that lets you raise and lower the ground around you at your will), but also upgrades that will cause you to stomp the ground creating a Shockwave of destruction, heavy duty shields and melee attacks that will allow you to plow through opponents and even a double jump ability that will leave a raised patch of dirt in your wake.

And that's all before you get to have fun with the weapons of the game. Fracture features a few normal weapons like the machine gun and the rocket launcher, but its bread and butter comes from the gizmos that leave the planet reshaped when they hit. The Black Widow allows you to throw out eight grenades that will either be seeded into the ground or get stuck on objects, people or vehicles. When you're ready, just tap a button to detonate them sequentially. There's nothing like sticking a grenade to an opponent, waiting for them to be surrounded by their comrades and setting it off and watching the Havok-controlled rag dolls flop about. If you've got any of those grenades in the ground, you will end up with a massive sinkhole, and seeding the dirt with a line of them will yield you a nice trench to take cover in.

The game's Vortex grenade is also quite nice. When it hits, it creates a gravity well that will cause anything that's not bolted down to be sucked into a spinning mass where it will take massive damage. Along the same lines is the LodeStone that causes people and objects to be pulled towards it, though it won't have quite the devastating impact of the Vortex, it can lead to a player being sucked into lava, or other dangerous grounds.

The Vortex isn't the only grenade you will have available. There is one that causes the ground to raise, and another that causes it to fall (both with massive Shockwaves that do quite a bit of damage). You will also have access to Spike grenades that cause a pillar of rock to form. These can be used to lift up bridges or other objects, as well as let you get to hard to reach locations. But you can see all that in the game's demo. What it doesn't give you access to is the multiplayer matches, and how TD really changes how those play out.

Fracture will include both team and non-team based Free-For-All and Kingmaker matches. It will also have a standard Capture-the-Flag match, as well as a One Flag Capture-the-Flag (where there is only a single flag on the map, and both teams try to get it to their respective bases). There is also a Break-In game where each team tries to get to the other team's base and hold on to it for a set amount of time, but then there is a game type that could only be done in Fracture, Excavation. Scattered throughout the map are several control points. They are all up for grabs, but in order to claim it, the team has to lower the ground so much that it is declared excavated. At that point, a rock-spike (similar to those created by Spike Grenades) arises with the team's color on it. In order for the other team to get the point, they have to destroy the spike and re-excavate the point.

For the most part, these seem like fairly standard gameplay modes, but because of the nature of TD, the weapons appear far more inaccessible, and there ends up being a ton more strategy that can be applied when you can create your own cover. For instance, take the standard Capture the Flag game. As mentioned above, you could simply block the entryways quickly by raising the ground, but you can also make a wall of rock-spikes since they require quite a bit of ammo to take down, and not simply the use of the standard Entrencher. Using the same strategy, you could dominate the Kingmaker games by getting to the designated location and surrounding yourself with rock-spikes that will keep you relatively safe from snipers and keep you locked into the area.

If you are at all interested in this game, which seems to literally reshape the way you think about shooters, then download the demo right away. Even if you aren't the best at games like this, the added ability to create your own cover means that you will be able to take the game at a pace you decide. Be on the lookout for our full review of this game soon after it is released early October.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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